Dear Ted

1st November 2002 at 00:00
I am thinking of What are the of teaching in the school your children attend?

Ted Wragg, professor of education at Exeter University, answers your professional problems, big or small, every week. Ask him for independent advice - or offer some of your own - by writing to: Dear Ted, The TES, Admiral House, 66-68 East Smithfield, London E1W 1BX. Or email: dear.ted@tes.co.uk.

Ted says

Finding your own offspring sitting large as life in your classroom is a fairly common experience among teachers, especially in rural areas where there may be only one handily placed school. I have never known whether to feel more sympathy for the pupil or the teacher.

Most teachers have learned to handle the situation sensibly. Your own child should be neither advantaged nor disadvantaged by your position, and impairment can sometimes be a bigger problem than favouritism. If a tricky situation arises, an experienced colleague can always be asked to play a part, so the outcome is seen as fair for teacher and pupils.

The most important advice, therefore, is to treat your child just like everyone else. Avoid greater familiarity (for example, use the child's name as you would others, rather than your family nickname), and try not to use put-down jokes, however gentle, that you would not make with others ("I don't suppose you've done the homework then"- nudge nudge, I'm the parent, so I know).

Talk through with your child in advance how you will handle various situations. It is, after all, a much more difficult matter for pupils, as they are not professionally trained, are inexperienced in life generally and have to live a normal life with their peers inside and outside the classroom.

You could always talk with other teachers, in your own or other schools, who have successfully managed the situation. A chat with the head before applying for the post would also be a good idea, so you can see if the school has a policy about teachers working with their own children. The head may, for example, try to put them in a parallel class, if possible.

You say

Respect the boundaries

My father and brother both started primary school at the same time, my father as an NQT teaching Year 6, which included his son. There are pros and cons: my brother was statemented for special needs and initially my father was torn between fighting for his rights to have one-to-one time and knowing that the money would be taken from elsewhere in the school budget. Apart from that, there have been no problems. My brother is aware that there are boundaries with my father at school and that he cannot be over-familiar within school grounds. He respects this and reaps the benefits of being popular with teachers and his peers for being the teacher's son.

PGCE student, Brighton

You must be the judge

It depends on how well you get on with your child, and on his personality. I worked in my daughter's school, and it was fine. She wasn't the clingy type, and would happily go about her own business. My sons, though, are a different matter. Whenever they see me at school, they come running up, grab hold of me and won't go anywhere without me. You must also be prepared for the possibility that your son's teacher may nab you to discuss his progress.

Kim Lyons, email

At least it saves on bus fares

Shortly after my son was offered a place at secondary school I saw an advert for a Senco post there. I simply asked if he would mind if I applied - he said to go for it as he didn't fancy getting on a bus to school. Two years later his sister joined the school. She found the comments from other children irritating, but for both children I think it smoothed the primary-secondary transition. I never had to teach lessons with either of my children; I think that is important for parent and child. I did cover a tutor period for my daughter a few times and I could see the children were surprised when I told my daughter off for talking. The class verdict on me? A bit stern but OK.

Anonymous, Surrey

Do it, but keep your distance

When I applied to my son's primary school I could tell he wasn't thrilled at the prospect. But we had an agreement - in school I was just another teacher. I didn't want him to bring his problems to me and he didn't want me looking over his shoulder. I would drop him off outside school and collect him in the evening from whichever friend's home he had gone to. He would come into class on errands and address me as a teacher; most children in the school didn't even spot we had the same surname. The few times he got in trouble it was the teachers who came to me. I simply pointed out that for these kind of minor misdemeanours they wouldn't usually contact a parent at work, so they shouldn't tell me either. It worked so well that at the end of Year 6 parents' evening the deputy head came while I was talking to his teacher and said, "Come on, haven't you two got parents to talk to?"

to which the Year 6 teacher replied: "I am."

Diane Davies, Mill Hill, London

Ask him

You don't say whether your son is at primary school or secondary. In my experience, kids have no problem with their parents teaching at the same primary school, but find it more difficult at secondary. Talk to your son and see what he thinks - if he's happy with the idea, go ahead.

Lyndsey Morton, West Yorkshire

Coming up: Primary training overload

"I am studying to be a primary teacher and am being taught subject knowledge in maths, science and English far beyond the level I will have to teach. Is this really necessary?" What do readers think? Let us know at dear.ted@tes.co.uk. We pay pound;40 for every answer published

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